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Zoo City

3.64  ·  Rating details ·  10,292 ratings  ·  1,493 reviews
Zinzi has a Sloth on her back, a dirty 419 scam habit and a talent for finding lost things. But when a little old lady turns up dead and the cops confiscate her last paycheck, she’s forced to take on her least favourite kind of job – missing persons.

Being hired by reclusive music producer Odi Huron to find a teenybop pop star should be her ticket out of Zoo City, the feste
Paperback, 416 pages
Published April 29th 2010 by Angry Robot
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Sarah It's never revealed in the book, although various different groups' theories are presented.…moreIt's never revealed in the book, although various different groups' theories are presented.(less)

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Average rating 3.64  · 
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Jan 21, 2012 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Tatiana by: Guardian
As seen on The Readventurer

Just when I think there is no urban fantasy in existence which breaks away from the formulaic and same-old-same-old, I come across this gem, thanks to Guardian book podcast. Hurray!

As with most of inventive and unorthodox genre deviations, describing Zoo City is a pain. I'm tempted to just call it a Paolo Bacigalupi/The Golden Compass mix and leave it at that, but I'm afraid I'll scare the readers away.

So, Zoo city. What is it? It's a sort of ghetto area in modern day
Melissa McShane
I hate it when I read a book that's beautifully written, but has a clumsy plot. I was seduced by the writing while I was reading it, and it wasn't until after I finished that I started realizing how many problems I had with it. In this alternate history/SF world, people's guilt over their mistakes or crimes manifests as animals that are emotionally or psychically attached to them, sort of like having an albatross hung around your neck, except living and not so corpsey. This was interesting to me ...more
One of the things I loved the most about Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials series was his rather brilliant twist on the concept of a witch's familiar: that in that world, each person's soul manifests as a companion animal that is their other half. It's not only because it's a cool idea; it also is an interesting reflection of our ongoing weird relationship with nature -- the connection we feel to the creatures of the earth, though most of us live far removed from it in cities and suburbs. And, ...more
✘✘ Sarah ✘✘ (former Nefarious Breeder of Murderous Crustaceans)
Okay, so the premise for this book is pretty cool: in this world, puny humans who are guilty of crimes find themselves "animalled," meaning they're mysteriously and irrevocably bound to, err, well, you know, animals and stuff. Not only that, if they get physically separated from their animal, or if the animal dies, they very promptly get very dead. Now if that isn't one of the most originally creative and creatively original ideas ever, I don't know what is.

Being quite the fauna enthusiast myse
May 24, 2016 rated it really liked it
This is a particularly smooth genre-meshing urban fantasy noir SF horror, and if you don't like my description, then go read it and figure out your best fit. :) If you do, however, find that perfect descriptor, be sure to add all the little animas, the familiars that bad people get after murdering someone, and if you let your anima die, you get dragged to hell. Or is the novel firmly set in modern day Johannesburg filled with scams, missing persons, and mystery? Oh, wait, how about all the mutil ...more

Zoo City is one of the more original, complicated fantasy books that I’ve read this year. I’m not even sure how to tag it, that’s how many elements come into play. Urban fantasy? Johannesburg is a major city, after all, and the animal angle is clearly unreal. Dystopia? Almost, but not quite; despite the animals, this is a current version of Johannesburg and African politics. Mystery noir? After all, there’s a missing person and an investigator of questionable character. Horror? A little witc
Apr 03, 2015 rated it really liked it
Lauren Beukes’ The Shining Girls fascinated me with her style and imagination, I thought it was a flawed gem but it put me on board for more Beukeses. The next logical book for me from the Beukes bibliography is 2011 Arthur C. Clarke Award winner Zoo City.

Set in an alternate reality where some people are suddenly paired with an animal as a consequence of something heinous they have done (or perhaps think they have done). Basically, if you are bearing some major guilt chances are an animal will
Althea Ann
May 24, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read this directly after finishing "Moxyland" and my wild enthusiasm for Lauren Beukes is not abating!

The setting is present-day Johannesburg, but in this alternate reality, a couple of decades ago, something strange started happening. Those who were guilty of terrible crimes were suddenly, magically saddled with an animal 'familiar' - reminiscent of the burden of the Ancient Mariner's albatross, but, well, alive. The "animalled" are also unable, it seems, to help liking and feeling affection
I loved it! :)

I was over the moon when Zoo City was chosen to be one of the SciFi and Fantasy Book Club reads for November! A book set in a version of my home city with an interesting premise and great reviews! Yes please!

In my excitement I emailed Lauren Beukes and asked if she'd do a Q&A with our group and she said yes! As you can imagine I was bouncing off walls! It occurred to me mid-bounce that this would be an awesome opportunity for Sod (you may know him as Murphy) to rear his ugly head
Before I read this, I would have said there was nothing new you could do with the magical companion animals trope. I would have been wrong.

I enjoyed this--for the concept, for the characters, for the setting. I was all set to give it four stars. And then the ending happened.

(view spoiler)
Lots of innovation in this melding of noir detective, cyberpunk, and urban fantasy genres. She doesn’t go overboard with any one of this triad. It was a fun ride mixed with a lot of disturbing elements. Having a likeable female hero helped me accommodate the widespread despair in the contemporary Johannesburg setting. But I am led to render a 3.5 star rating because of personal displeasure with the shocking and implausible dénouement to the tale. But then maybe horror is the 4th genre in the ble ...more
Jul 08, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.5 stars

(sheesh, here we go again with Goodreads sucking up my reviews....twice...)

Gonna keep this short: I was very impressed with my first encounter with Lauren Beukes' imaginative stylings (not unlike those of China Miéville). Zoo City, impossible to pigeon-hole (is it science fiction? dystopia? thriller? social commentary? good old fashioned magical murder mystery? kinda "yes" to all) is a bizarre, alternate universe'd, present day reimagining of Johannesburg, South Africa, one where crim
3.5 stars rounded up. I enjoyed it more than expected. Beukes is my first South African author and it is quite refreshing to read a speculative fiction book set in (alternate version) of Johannesburg. I love the slangs, the worldbuilding, the city lives, and of course the animal familiars in there. Sloth is cute!

The book is fast paced but sometimes it is easy to get lost in the details. The main character is so deliciously cheeky and witty, I love reading her thoughts and dialogues.

Still confus
Feb 19, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2020
This takes place in a world where whenever people feel extreme guilt, an animal will manifest and follow them around as a physical sign. This can also come with some abilities, such as the main character’s abilities to find lost things. The definition of “lost things” is flexible, as almost everyone has lost something or other, so this isn’t always as useful of an ability as it might seem at first glance.

Because of the guilt factor, those with animals are unpopular in society and have to live i
Ruby  Tombstone Lives!
While I'm not usually a big fan of urban fantasy, I really enjoy the writing style of Lauren Beukes, and loved her other novel Moxyland. Her female characters are strong, flawed and cynical, but above all realistic and relatable. On top of that, the protagonist in this one has a sloth. Yep. A sloth.

Zoo City has one hell of an original premise - that people who commit a grave crime such as murder, find themselves bonded to a magical animal familiar, and should that animal die, a dark force called
This is not your average urban fantasy. It's set in Johannesburg, South Africa, in a world where murderers and other criminals acquire magical animals that are mystically bonded to them. "Zoos" are discriminated against, but with their animal also comes a magical talent, unique to each Zoo.

Zinzi December is an addict whose drug habit got her brother killed, and thus burdened her with her Sloth companion and a magical talent for finding lost things. She's a very flawed protagonist, but very belie
Ashley Daviau
Aug 08, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I wasn't sure to expect when I started reading this as I had no idea what it was about and bought it simply because the cover caught my eye. I'm really pleased I bought it because I thoroughly enjoyed this book! It was such a fresh, original concept and quite unlike anything I've ever read before! I really loved the whole concept of the animals and Zoo City, it completely drew me in right from the beginning. I also really enjoyed that there was some magic mixed in but that it also had aspects of ...more
Megan Baxter
Dec 22, 2013 rated it really liked it
So, I was reading 419, which was all about 419 scams, and was very unimpressed. It wasn't perceptive, it didn't grab me, and the characters all seemed flat. Move your gaze a week or so, and I start reading this urban fantasy set in Johannesburg, and although 419 scams are only a very small part of what this book is about, the small space they occupied in this book was far more interesting and trenchant than the entire other book on the matter.

Note: The rest of this review has been withdrawn due
Jess The Bookworm
Jul 16, 2016 rated it really liked it
This book takes the reader into the nitty gritty of Johannesburg, the slums, the underworld, and at the same time it introduces a touch of magic in a very unique way.

Zinzi has committed a crime, and for that has been saddled with a connection with an Animal, a sloth, which she takes with her everywhere she goes. Due to her Animal connection, she has also developed the ability to find the lost things of other people. She lives in Zoo City in the Joburg CBD, where other people with Animals live, w

I don’t normally read urban fantasy (or urban science fiction, not entirely sure what genre this is), not because the books of that genre have let me down, but because I don’t particularly like urban settings. They make me sad, and for some reason all urban books are always pointing out the miserable conditions of our existence.

As I owned this book, I thought I might as well read it. People have been giving it good reviews and the premise is pretty interesting. As someone who’s head over heels
Oct 09, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: fantasy
I usually start my book reviews with a brief outline of the plot. In this case it is very difficult to do as the moment I start talking about it I will give huge spoilers. If I try to avoid them all, the plot will sound too generic - and it is anything but. So I apologize in advance for some spoilers: they are very minor, I promise.

Zinzi December lives in the near future version of South Africa. She has a talent for finding lost things, just things not persons. She also has a part-time job as a
Kara Babcock
Identity is a very fragile and ephemeral concept, and the philosophy surrounding identity fascinates me. If, in the immortal words of Ke$ha, “we R who we R”, then who we are differs depending upon whether we are alone or with people, with friends or with enemies (or, if you are Ke$ha, with frenemies). We perform identity, wearing it like a costume. But it’s not something we entirely control. Identity is not so much a costume as it is a negotation between two entities, for part of my identity is ...more
K.J. Charles
Second read for this fantasy. Hugely energetic mystery based around a brilliantly weird idea: people who commit serious crimes find themselves with linked animals, a bit like daemons but not nice--and if the animal dies, a weird shadowy doom comes for the person. The exploration of the social impacts of this (eg bad boy pop stars faking being animalled to look hard, or the issues of being animalled in prison) and the documentary inserts are probably my favourite aspects of this--the plot is a bi ...more
Dec 23, 2019 rated it liked it
3.5 roundeddown? Didn’t care at all for the ending.
Jul 24, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I always struggle with the first sentence of my reviews, so I’m just going to dive right in and tell you all about this stunningly magnificent book that surprised the hell out of me.

Zoo City is really hard to describe. Why? Because I’m afraid I might not be able to adequately explain why this is a once-in-a-lifetime-MUST-read. If you’re not from South Africa, the setting and colloquial narrative might – at first - feel a little strange and disconcerting. Yet, well into the story, you’ll soon eno
The Captain
May 17, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy
Ahoy there me mateys! This be one of me reads in me May BookBum Club Challenge where the theme be “around the world: a book by an author who is from another country.” This author be from South Africa. I was reminded of this book’s existence from me recent look at me NetGalley Rejections – Part Two. I had requested it back in the day and was denied. So what better time to read it then for this challenge?

The blurb starts with “Zinzi has a sloth on her back.” A women who is bonded with a sloth? Umm
Ranting Dragon
Jan 28, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: benni

Zoo City is a standalone novel set in a fictional Johannesburg, South Africa. In Zoo City, if you commit a felonious sin, the Undertow comes for you and marks you with first an animal companion that serves as a manifestation of your sin, and second a supernatural talent. Both the animal and the talent are called “mashavi.” The sinners are called “aposymbiots,” and are relegated to living in a slum known as Zoo City.

Zinzi December is an aposymbiot: her anim
Oct 10, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read_2012, own, kindle
I like ZOO CITY more for the concept than actual story that is until the darker side of key players comes to light. Beukes creates a world teaming with real world comparisons separated by unique twists of the fantastical. The plot, once established, is pretty straight forward and conforms to the typical PI case format comprising a series of interviews, background digging, violent encounters etc as the protagonist, Zinzi December, and her sloth source the target.

Having previously used her talent
Jul 17, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2011
Oh, Zinzi. I wanted to like you, I really did.

The book picked me up and carried me along until three-quarters of the way through, when it promptly dropped me and went off to lose its way.

I found myself discombobulated at the start of chapters, because everything was in medias res and Zinzi had to backtrack to cover where she was and what was happening. It felt like an overly awkward way to tell the whole story - fine for chapters in which it was necessary, but that certainly wasn't the case ever
Jan 01, 2012 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: fans of urban magic, esp with a noir feel
Zinzi December grew up rich and privileged, but her drug addiction led to the death of her brother and jail time. Now she lives in Zoo City, the ghetto for the animalled--people who are guilty of something so bad that an inexplicable force gave them an animal, which they are connected to for life. They cannot be separated from their animal without great pain. Animals are a source of shame and social stigma, and with a sloth in tow, Zinzi is forced out of journalism and into working odd jobs. Wit ...more
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SciFi and Fantasy...: "Zoo City" Final Thoughts *Spoilers* 30 263 Dec 30, 2019 12:36PM  
Play Book Tag: Zoo City by Lauren Beukes 1 10 Mar 13, 2019 08:44AM  
Suomalainen lukup...: Zoo City: Eläinten valtakunta (fantasiakirjallisuus) 28 33 Sep 09, 2018 02:19AM  
Urban Fantasy Afi...: July 2018 Group Read - Zoo City 8 15 Jul 03, 2018 06:13PM  
Why Does the Author Ignore Race? 6 93 Sep 24, 2015 11:10PM  
SciFi and Fantasy...: "Zoo City" First Impressions *No Spoilers* 43 232 Sep 28, 2014 07:48AM  
SA Book & Challen...: Zoo City 1 8 Oct 29, 2013 02:12AM  

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Lauren Beukes is an award-winning, best-selling novelist who also writes screenplays, TV shows, comics and journalism. Her books have been translated into 26 languages and have been optioned for film and TV.

Her awards include the Arthur C Clarke Award, the prestigious University of Johannesburg prize, the August Derleth Prize, the Strand Critics Choice Award and the RT Thriller of the Year. She’s

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